Henry Wakhungu

Harnessing Online Resources to Help Students Do Statistics

Spotlight, February 2015

Henry Wakhungu

Each semester, Professor Henry Wakhungu, Senior Lecturer in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), teaches hundreds of students in 11 sections of K300 Statistical Techniques. He has taught this course face-to-face, in hybrid format, and online.

Wakhungu noticed that only a few students in his face-to-face classes were sufficiently engaged to ask and answer questions in class. The remaining students just observed. He wanted students to do more than observe lectures and complete homework assignments. He wanted them to be actively engaged and do statistics.

The CITL had helped Wakhungu develop an online version of the course that used online self-study resources provided by the textbook publisher, including videos, study guides, case studies, homework problems, and self-assessments. Wakhungu noticed that his online students were very engaged with these resources. Furthermore, they asked questions—questions that were focused and to the point.

Wakhungu decided to harness the online resources for students in his face-to-face class. Using these resources enabled face-to-face students to access supplementary materials and receive instant feedback on problems they worked on outside of class. This encouraged students to seek out additional opportunities to work with the content and develop a deeper conceptual understanding. They engaged in ongoing problem-solving and began to see the relevance of statistics to their own areas of interest. If they still had trouble understanding a concept, they could contact the instructor or AI, but their extensive practice with the online resources enabled them to ask very focused questions about what they were struggling with.

Developing online sections of the course, then, ultimately allowed both online and face-to-face students to gain the benefits of working with online self-study resources. These resources motivated students to engage in more authentic statistical problem-solving and enabled SPEA to meet the growing demand for this statistics course.

Wakhungu offers the following suggestions for improving large courses.

  • Get to know your students. Use surveys to collect data from students at the beginning of the course. This helps convey important information about the course to students and gives you a sense of students' experience levels, expectations, and concerns early in the semester.
  • Get to know your course. Do research on the course. Constantly collect and analyze data in order to improve the course.
  • Get to know the resources at IUB. Consult with the CITL about your course design and read through its teaching resources webpage.
  • Ease into the online world. Start small, and slowly phase in more and more online resources. For example, Wakhungu started by teaching one unit online in his face-to-face course. The following semester, he used online delivery for the whole course, but still had face-to-face labs to help students with problems. The next semester, he taught the course fully online.
  • Use online resources to assess progress. Take advantage of online resources that allow you to observe how your students work with content. Wakhungu was able to use learning analytics provided by the publisher to better understand where his students were having trouble. He could then work with the publisher on additional resources, such as group exercises and case studies, to help improve student learning.

Henry Wakhungu is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.